In discussing the great themes which I have selected for our consideration, it may prevent disappointment, and assist us in coming to just conclusions, to bear in mind that the proof of the doctrines which the New Church teaches upon these subjects, cannot be of the same nature, though it may be just as conclusive, as that which we accept concerning natural things. We cannot demonstrate the spiritual world and the spiritual body to the natural senses; we cannot see and feel a spiritual form. The senses take cognizance only of those things to which they are specially adapted. It is as illogical and absurd to ask for a physical proof of the existence of a spiritual truth, as it would be for a man to demand that light should be demonstrated to the senses of hearing and touch, before he would believe in its existence.
We must not forget, also, that our minds are finite, and there are some things which we cannot know; which no finite being can ever know. We can gain no knowledge of anything as it is in itself, in its inmost essence. The wisest man is just as unable as the little child, to tell why certain effects should follow certain causes. For example: No natural philosopher can tell why the waves of ether flowing into the eye cause the sensation of light. He will tell you all about the coats and lenses of the eye, and show how perfectly they are arranged to form an image of the natural object upon its retina. But ask him why those causes produce such an effect, rather than another, and he cannot answer a word. It is neither necessary nor useful to us to know the essences of things, and the reasons why certain causes will produce certain effects. It is enough to know that those causes do exist, and to be able to trace their connection with their effects.
I hope, also, that I shall not convey to any one the impression that I seek to prove a point by any trick of logic, merely for the purpose of making out a case. An enforced conviction is of no value. We are immortal-we are to live through unending years. You and I, my friends, in a few days, are to push off into what to most persons "is an unknown dark." Can we gain any clear, rational knowledge of what awaits us? I believe, I know, we can. The writings of the New Church contain disclosures upon this subject, which must be satisfactory when understood, and which can be found nowhere else. I desire only to tell you what those disclosures are, and to give you such reasons and illustrations of their truth, as may assist you in accepting them.
I am to speak of man as a Spiritual Being; of the various degrees of his life; and to give some reasons why he commences his existence in this world.
1. Our doctrines declare, and the whole force of their teaching and logic goes to show, that man is essentially a Spirit. Let us get the full force and meaning of this proposition clearly before our minds. We mean far more by this declaration than that people have a spirit. We mean that a person is a Spirit; that every distinctly human quality they possess is spiritual. Or to reverse the proposition: a spirit is a person - a human being; and there are no people, no human beings, who are not spirits. You are spirits, and all that distinguishes you from the plant and animal is spiritual. The substances out of which you are made are spiritual, and the human form which those substances have assumed is a spiritual form. Plants and animals emulate the human form, but they do not attain it, because they have no spiritual nature in the human form, to mould the material into its likeness.
It is the prevalent opinion that people are in the human form only as to their material body; and that their spirit is some vital force, which gives life somewhat as steam gives motion to machinery; and it has been a disputed point with philosophers for ages, in what particular part of a person the soul or spirit dwelt. Some put it in the head, some in the heart, and some in other parts of the body. When a person dies it is common to say, "His spirit has left him," as though some part of the person, some formless essence, had fled and left him behind, implying that the material body is essentially the person him or her self.
But the doctrines of the New Church take exactly the opposite view. They declare that the spirit is in the human form; that it dwells in every part of the body, in the minutest microscopic cell and fiber. Instead of saying, or admitting, or implying, that a person is a material being and has a spirit, we say he or she is a spiritual being and has a material body; and when they die, the person departs and leaves his or her material body behind. It is the spirit that gives form to the body, casts it into its own image and likeness, and constantly gives it the power to retain the human form. Consequently, when a person leaves their body, its organization falls to pieces; the substances which composed it are dissipated, and the whole form disappears. But the person him or her self is not touched by it. He or she retains their distinct personality. Their human form is no more affected by the dissipation of the material body, than that is by the wearing out of the body’s clothes. Now let us see what reasons we can find for this spiritual personality of people.
In the last chapter I showed that a spiritual substance is as necessary to the existence of a spiritual world and spiritual beings, as matter is to the existence of a material world and a material body. Admitting, then, that there are spiritual substances, and that these substances can exist in various forms - as aeriform, fluid, and solid - we have no difficulty in admitting that a complete spiritual body could be organized out of them, having the same organs, within and without, as the material. This spiritual body could have a head, trunk, and limbs; the spiritual senses could be organized in the same manner as the natural senses; the head could have eyes, ears, and brains, and all the features of the face; a spiritual heart could beat in the chest, and propel spiritual blood through spiritual arteries; the lungs could breathe a spiritual atmosphere, and perform the same office for the blood, that the material lungs do for the material blood. Indeed, there could be a complete spiritual body, in every particular, in the he human. form, competent to perform all the functions of a man relatively the same as the material body.
2. Having shown the possibility, according to our admitted premises, of a fully-organized spiritual man, let us look at its probability.
A little observation will convince us that it is in perfect harmony with all we know of the Lord's methods of accomplishing His purposes, that man should have this spiritual organization. If we go back to the beginning of time, we find, according to the testimony of the earth itself, as it is recorded in the rocky pages of its own history, that it was then a seething mass of inorganic elements. According to general belief, it was a molten ball of fire, with no ground, no rock, and no distinction of forms in its fiery mass. By cooling, rocks, and afterwards earths, appeared. The perfection of mineral forms was attained by crystallization, which seems to be a rude effort and faint prophecy of organization.
The next step is the plant. The finer elements of matter are organized into a new and higher creation. A wonderful series of forms are combined, mutually acting and reacting upon each other and working together for a definite end. A germ unfolds into a root for the earth, and a stalk for the air. Each goes its own way, multiplies itself, and imbibes the materials necessary for the growth of the whole plant. The slender stalk becomes a trunk, which spreads out into branch, and stem, and leaf; into stamen and pistil, and blossom and fruit. The end is reached; the circle of its life is complete. It is a wonderful mystery. Its methods and order, the beauty and variety of its forms, are past all human comprehension. But the plant is unconscious of its own beauty and glory. It stands immovably fixed in the earth. It can do nothing but grow and bear leaves to fall, and blossoms to fade, and fruit to perish or reproduce itself.
What plan does Infinite Wisdom devise to take another grand step? Does He abandon the old method by which He made the plant? No; He effects it by a new series of finer and more delicate organic forms. He uproots the plant from the earth, and gives it sensation, by means of a new series of organic forms - the nerves. And now you may begin with the lowest zoophyte, and go all the way up, step by step, through all the grades of animal life, until you reach the highest, and you will find that the Lord never deviates from His first method. Every step consists in a finer and more complicated organization. There is no exception to this law. People, viewed simply as material beings, stand at the head of all animal life; and surpass all other creatures in the fineness and complexity of their organization.
Human beings are the crowning work of the Creator. We cannot doubt that it was the Divine purpose to make all things serve them, and to bring them into the most intimate and various relations to all forms of matter and all degrees of animated life. How has Infinite Wisdom effected this end? How has He given human beings such power over the earth, that they can make every element and every object serve them? By their organization. The eye brings home to the human door the sun and the planets, and remote constellations; mountain and valley, ocean and stream; the specific forms of mineral, plant, and animal; the grandeur and beauty of the landscape; the splendors of color; the perpetual play of light and shadow; reveals them to his consciousness, and makes them the objects of his affection and thought. Occupying but a few cubic feet of space, and by their nature bound to the earth, and limited to a few natural objects by personal contact, people can yet, with one scope of vision, take in the canopy of heaven, and the vast amphitheatre of earth. But the eye reveals only one class of material qualities, the forms, and motions, and changing hues of earth and sky, and is affected by matter, only in one of its distinct degrees, the ether.
Another degree, the air, is filled with innumerable harmonies, communicated to it by leaf, and tree, and stream; by mountain, and ocean, and storm; by bird and beast. The sounds of labor, the many-toned voices of truth, of friendship, and love, and the inspirations of the great masters of song - how can they be made available for human use and happiness? The Lord solved the problem by the formation of another organ, the ear, adjusted to the activities of this material plane. The ear gathers up all these vibrations, and pours the riches of harmony, thought, and affection, into the soul. By this simple but miraculous arrangement, the air is made the medium of communication between man and man, and every soul is brought into intimate contact with many others.
There are other qualities of things of which neither eye nor ear can gain any knowledge; the fragrance that flows from all material objects; the savors that make delicious the reception of the food necessary to our sustenance. The Lord organized senses to perceive all these qualities and communicate to man their delights. The sense of touch reveals to us still other qualities of material objects; enables us to handle them, and mould them into special forms adapted to our use.
Thus we see that all human knowledge of the material world, and all human ability to use the various objects which compose it, are given people by their organization. This is the method of Infinite Wisdom, and, so far as we know, there are no deviations from it.
Now, when He desires to take another distinct step; when He wishes to create a being of a higher order than plant or animal; to endow that being with thought and reason; to give him or her the power to see the order, beauty, harmony, and evidences of design in the universe, and to love the Lord and his neighbor; when He determines to communicate to every person all those qualities which are distinctly human, and which make human beings the perfection and glory of the creation, is it probable that He abandons the method which He has hitherto uniformly pursued? Every step in the progress from chaotic matter to the will and the understanding - those qualities which conjoin man more immediately with the Lord Himself - has been effected by a finer and more varied organization; and now He abandons this method! nay, reverses it, and accomplishes His highest ends by a thin, invisible vapor, a substanceless and formless essence! Can you conceive anything more improbable and absurd than that? It would seem impossible for any rational mind to entertain the idea for a moment. If there is any force in the law of analogy, it cannot be. The whole creation, with united voice, proclaims that, when the Lord would create a being to think, to reason, and to love; to exercise those faculties which we call spiritual; He would effect it by the organization of spiritual substances.
3. We must guard against the opposite error, however, of supposing that the perfection of human beings is due to organization and form alone. The nature of the substance of which the organ is formed, is as essential to its perfection as the form itself. And here we find a most conclusive argument for the truth, that people are essentially spiritual beings. Matter cannot observe, reflect, remember, compare, reason, understand, and love. It has no voluntary power. Refine it and organize it to the utmost extent of its possibilities, it is still passive, and in itself dead. Consequently the human body cannot perform one of its functions, after the spirit has left it, though its organization remains perfect. The eye cannot see, the ear hear, the brain think. Matter can perform material offices only. It follows, therefore, of necessity, that it must be some other substance that is the subject of mental and distinctly human qualities, and that substance must be spiritual. If it is not, we have no knowledge whatever concerning it. We are inevitably brought to the conclusion, therefore, that all those qualities which distinguish people from the plant and animal, and are properly human, are due to people’s spiritual nature; or in other words, they are activities of a spiritual organization.
4. Still, some persons may distrust a course of reasoning against a generally accepted principle, even though it may seem conclusive. They may think there is some flaw or sophistry in it, though they may not be able to detect it, and say, "It looks plausible, perhaps it may be so, perhaps not." Let us suppose, then, that it is not; that humans are not essentially spiritual beings; that the human form and organization are limited to the material body. The person has no spiritual eye, no ear, no brain, no face; no head, no heart and lungs; no hands, no feet, no limbs, no veins, arteries, nerves. Is the person not literally, and emphatically, nobody? What is there in him or her to think, to feel, to know, to will, to act? Nothing. By that process of reasoning, if it is worthy of the name, you annihilate the person.
Some may say, there is a vital principle or an abstract spiritual power left after the dissolution of the material body. But there can be no abstract power. Power is the force with which some form and substance acts. A principle is nothing but the law or method according to which causes effect their ends. We may affirm, and reaffirm, that the soul exists; but if we deny to it all forms and modes of existence, our verbal affirmation will avail nothing against our practical denial.
5. But we argue, further, that a person cannot preserve their identity, and their consciousness of individual existence, if they have no spiritual or personal form. When the material body is resolved into nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, and the various gases and earths of which it is composed, it is no longer a human body, and consequently there is no possibility of its identification, for all personality is lost. We hope to meet our friends, when we pass into the spiritual world, and to be reunited to those we love. But how shall we know them, if neither they nor we have any form? Two - what shall I call them? - two essences, without substance or form, two vital principles meet. What a meeting! How could they meet? What is there to meet or to be met? How could they recognize each other? What would there be to recognize? What special characteristics would there be to distinguish and individualize them? None. Suppose some soul or vital principle did continue to exist, as a breath or vapor, or formless and unsubstantial ghost, it would not be ourselves, any more than the ashes on the hearth, and the gases and vapors dispersed in the atmosphere, are the tree with its coronal of peculiar leaves, its glory of blossom, and its wealth of fruit.
Suppose there do remain real essences, but diffused and unorganized, as the carbon from a consumed diamond, or wine from crushed grapes. The diamond could not identify itself in the gas. Charcoal, and other material forms, might claim with equal right the same substance. No individual grape of any particular cluster could discern and separate from the pipe the fine globules of juice that filled its cells. No more would a human essence find itself in a formless atmosphere or cloud of diffused and interblending essences. No one could say, "This is I." There is, therefore, no hope for the continuance of your existence, unless you can retain your human form. Allowing that some residuum may remain from you, it will not be you. You have become absorbed in the undistinguishable elements, your identity is lost, and you are no more.
6. The force of this truth presses upon the understanding so powerfully, that even those who deny that a person has a spiritual organization, are compelled to admit its possibility, and to acknowledge that he or she will have a spiritual form, and become somebody at the resurrection. But if material substances are to be transmuted into a spiritual body by the purification and exaltation of their elements, then there can be spiritual substances and a spiritual form, and the whole question of impossibility is given up. How much more rational and in accordance with all we know of the Divine methods, to admit that there are spiritual substances distinct from matter, capable of being molded by the Divine wisdom into every variety of organic form.
7. In the first chapter I gave some reasons for believing that the spiritual world is a real world, filled with innumerable forms objective to those who dwell in it. But if that world is the abode of souls that have no form and no substance, and, consequently, no senses, it is of no consequence whether it is a world of surpassing beauty, or a dreary, unchanging void. It would be all the same to them; having no eye, they could see no beauty; having no ear, there could be no harmony for them. It would be a land of unbroken silence, of eternal darkness and hopeless death. Can the human mind conceive a greater absurdity than such an idea? As we rise towards the All-perfect, do we come into the realms of silence and nothingness? As we are formed more fully into the image and likeness of the Lord, do all personal distinctions fade away? Do we lose our identity, and become a nameless and formless essence? So far as our observation extends, distinctness and individuality of form, fineness and complexity of organization, increase with every step of progress. But when human beings take the final step which separates them from all other creatures, and allies them to angels and the Lord, the whole process is reversed, the universal method is abandoned, and all things revert to emptiness and chaos!
No; it cannot be. No difficulty is avoided by this supposition; nothing is gained by it but innumerable contradictions, an insult to reason, the practical annihilation of man, and the denial of a universal method and infinite wisdom to the Lord.
But this question is one of such transcendent importance, and one about which there are so many doubts and so much unbelief, that it is useful to get all the testimony we can upon the subject. Let us therefore see what the Lord teaches us in His holy Word upon it.
1. The Bible in every part regards the spirit as the person. Its whole scope, form, and purpose are directed to people as spiritual beings. It appeals to their fears and hopes as spiritual beings. If it is anything more than any other book, it is a revelation to us of peoples’ spiritual nature, of a spiritual world, of a spiritual destiny, of a substantial existence in a spiritual world totally distinct from the material world. It comes to people in their Egyptian darkness, and bondage to the flesh and the world, to break off their material chains, to lift them up into a light higher than their own. The Lord appears to them, and rescues them from natural dangers and death, when there was no possibility of any human aid, that He might get recognition from people; that they might know from actual experience that there is another world, and other beings, and supernatural influences immanent in this. The Lord gives human beings laws with supernatural sanctions; sends His angels to warn, rescue, and guide; sends His prophets with His Word; works the most stupendous miracles, and finally comes Himself, by assuming our nature, to keep alive in us the idea of our spiritual being and destiny. That is the whole scope and purpose of the Lord's manifestations to human beings, and of His instructions through prophets and apostles in His Word.
2. Furthermore, the Lord everywhere recognizes people as spiritual beings. He addresses them as such. His laws respect them as such; they look to the thoughts and intents of the heart. The outward action, the merely bodily, physical deed, is not anywhere recognized as the essential act. It is the motive, the intention, the act of the spirit, that weighs. "Circumcision is of the heart." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit." "I am come," our Lord said, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Not physical life, but spiritual life. " The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
3. But let us look at some particular examples. When the Lord speaks of those who have passed from this life into the spiritual world, He speaks of them as living and substantial people. In His reply to the Sadducees, who did not believe in any life after this, He says: "As touching the dead that they rise, have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living." If there is any force in this reasoning, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living as real, substantial beings. They preserve their personality and identity. Abraham is still Abraham, and Jacob is Jacob still. They are not some unsubstantial, formless, shadowy essence, or vapory ghost of what they once were. They are not some abstract principle of thought and affection, while all that constituted them distinctly human beings lies moldering in the grave, or is dispersed among the elements; but the men themselves. And if they are alive as real human beings, so are all who have passed into the spiritual world. If this is not so, God is no longer their God, according to His own declaration. They are dead in the sense the Sadducees understood it. They have ceased to exist. The death of the body is the extinction of their being. Our fathers, and our children, and our many loved ones whose bodies we have committed to the earth, are no longer ours. They have no God. They are nothing. They have been annihilated. And we shall soon follow into the abyss of nothingness.
At the transfiguration, also, Peter, James, and John saw two men, who were Moses and Elias, who appeared with the Lord and talked with Him. Is not this conclusive evidence that Moses and Elias were still living as distinct human beings? If it was some formless essence, or abstract thinking principle, why was it designated as Moses and Elias? Why might it not have been any thinking principle?
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, also, we have first an account of the rich man and Lazarus in this world; then the statement that they died; then we find them in the spiritual world, Lazarus in Abraham's bosom; the rich man in hell. They recognize each other; they speak to each other. How could they if they were formless essences? They have organized members of the human form. Lazarus has a finger; did he not also have a hand, an arm, and a complete human form? Dives had a tongue, and could speak; and so also could Abraham. Does not this imply all the organs of the head, the brain, thorax, lungs, and the whole human form? Had they lost anything of form, feature, organization, or personal existence? Nothing. Yet they died and were buried. They were dead in the sense commonly given to the word.
But to remove all doubt, John, reporting what he saw in the spiritual world, says, "I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." Now here we have persons - who have a voice, which implies the whole internal organization of a human being. They had hands, and held palm branches in them. They had feet and stood upon them. They were clothed with white robes. Were they merely vital principles or formless essences, belonging to organized bodies then lying in the sepulcher; or which had become incorporated into animals and plants or other human bodies? One of the elders told John that these glorified and rejoicing were - what shall I call them? - vital sparks, the mere adjuncts of a human being? No. "These are they which came out of great tribulation." They came from the earth, therefore. They were men and women who had lived and labored and struggled and died upon this earth. They had been prophets, apostles, and martyrs. They constituted a part of that cloud of witnesses of whom the Apostle says: "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword,: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection." And they had attained it. For the angel declared: "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
This evidence might be indefinitely multiplied. But it is unnecessary. Those who will not be convinced by the testimony already given, would not be if their own eyes were opened, and they could see the great multitude of the departed, and hear their heavenly songs. They would call it an illusion of the imagination. And yet any other supposition than that the spirit is the person, is contrary to the whole tenor and purpose of the Scriptures, contrary to the testimony of apostles and prophets, the angels, and the Lord Himself; and involves the whole question of the future life of man in contradiction, doubt, and darkness.
On the other hand, the simple admission that human beings are essentially spiritual beings, having a complete human organization and form, accords with all we know of the Divine method of accomplishing His ends; is in the direct line of all His providences, in harmony with reason and revelation; involves no contradictions, and holds out to people the sure and glorious hope of preserving their identity through eternity, under more favorable conditions, for the exercise of every faculty, and the attainment of every joy.
I have dwelt somewhat at length upon this topic, because it is of essential importance to all our subsequent investigations. Human beings are the subject of this whole series of chapters. We are to follow them, if possible, from their earthly home into the spiritual world; to learn the changes through which they pass; the means by which they are effected; and the nature of their life, when they reach their final abode. But if they vanish from our mental sight, we may speculate and reason, but it will be to no purpose, for we shall reason about we know not what. It is necessary to have a substantial subject, or being, to whom we can refer all these changes and activities. Then we shall have a definite form before us, and we shall not be lost in endless abstractions.
Regarding the truth as well established, then, that people are essentially spiritual beings, or a spirit in the human form, having a substantial spiritual body, which is to preserve its identity through all its changes to eternity, we are prepared to discuss our next topic, which is:
II. The various degrees of life. It was a true saying of ancient wisdom, that human beings are a microcosm, a universe in miniature. Into their nature and form are collated all the substances and qualities of the whole creation. Every kingdom and plane of nature has its representative in them. The golden chain of being let down from the Lord finds all its links in people, and by them returning to the Lord, completes the cycle of causes and effects. But these innumerable substances, forms, and qualities, are not promiscuously blended in people; they are arranged in distinct planes, which everywhere run parallel to one another, but never meet. This distinction of degree is seen in the various kingdoms of nature. It is also seen in the human body. The bones, the nerves, the blood-vessels, are all perfectly distinct from one another; all have different functions; all act together in unity, but each preserves its individuality, and never becomes merged in the other. Thus, as to their material body, a person is a series of organic forms, one rising above another in excellence and use. By these various degrees of his or her being, a person is related to the various planes of matter. By the eye and the nervous system they are connected with the ether and the finer magnetic element, by the ear and the lungs, with the atmosphere; by the other senses, which are all modifications of the sense of touch, with solids and fluids. Above and within the material body, he or she has a spiritual body, which has the same distinct degrees as the material, and by them that person is related to the spiritual world, in the same way that he or she is related to the material world by the three planes of the material body. The highest or inmost degree of a person’s life lies next to the Lord, or to the purest vital forces which perpetually flow from Him, and fill and give life to all beings, and perpetual creation to all things. This inmost degree of peoples’ spiritual organization is brooded over and pressed upon by Divine influences, as the outer surface of the material body, which lies next to the material world, is pressed on all sides by the atmosphere, the ether, and the various material forces. These degrees never coalesce. They are a clean cleavage, running through nature and mankind. They extend out indefinitely in their relations to all things on the same plane, but no degree can rise above or fall below itself. These discrete degrees constitute the golden chain of being - the Jacob's Ladder on which the angels of God ascend and descend. The Lord is at the top of it; the earth on which it rests, at the bottom. Thus, the highest and the lowest meet in man. He is the grand audience-hall where all beings and all things can meet, from the Lord to the rock, each in its appropriate place, and he can give to and receive from all.
The subject is one which demands fuller consideration than I can give it now. I have barely stated it, because it seems necessary to a clear understanding of our next and final topic, and that is:
III. The reasons why man commences his life in this world. The various planes or degrees of existence, which are found everywhere in nature and people, rest one upon another. The foot of the ladder stands upon the earth. The highest degrees are not fully formed first, but last. I say fully formed. They do, indeed, exist as causes, or, as we say, in potency, but not actually. They exist as the tree exists in the germ of the seed; as the animal in the embryo. But they cannot become fully formed without a basis to rest upon.
Let us look at some examples and illustrations of this general truth, and then apply them to the particular case under consideration. Let us suppose this problem, - one which has already been solved. Given the sun and all spiritual forces, to form a plant. It could not be formed in the sun; its fierce fires and intense activities would not permit it. The earth must first be created. Those pure, flaming substances which compose the sun must be emitted from it, and lose so much of their intense life as to become quiescent and passive. They must become rock and earth. Then a basis is formed on which the finer material and spiritual substances can rest, and into which they can act. Now the Lord can form the germ, and endow it with power to collect the materials necessary to its growth. The sun stimulates all its activities, and communicates to it of its own substance; the atmosphere and the water give their quota, and in process of time the plant is formed, and the problem solved. Now, you will observe, that in the first part of the work, the letting down of the chain, there was no organization and no possibility for any. Auras, ether, gases, fluids, and, finally, solids, were formed. Then the bottom was reached, and the ascent began. But in every step of the ascent, there must be a solid, a coat, or skin, or containing vessel, to hold the finer elements during the process of their organization. The grain of wheat, for example, must first form a vessel, which eventually becomes the chaff, to contain the pure substances that are to be organized into the grain. For they must be in a fluid state, or they would not yield to the spiritual forces which act from within and effect the organization of the grain, and cast it into their own mould.
Thus, the whole vegetable kingdom rests upon the mineral kingdom, and could only have been formed subsequently to it. The animal kingdom, also, is based upon the vegetable, though in a different and more perfect way. Destroy all vegetable life, and all animals would soon die, and humanity itself must cease to exist upon the earth. There was the same necessity for a basis and containing ultimate for the organization of man as a spiritual being, that there was for the grain of wheat.
But let us take another example. An artist has a clear conception in his own mind of a beautiful human face. It is an ideal or spiritual form, and he desires to bring it out into actual and permanent existence before him. If he or she is a painter, it must be done by means of light, of color. The light flows around them; all its colors are in every ray that enters his or her eye. But the person cannot use them directly. They must be embodied in material substances before a person can handle them; and then the person must have their canvas, or some other material basis, upon which to deposit them, in the various combinations necessary to bring out into permanent form the beautiful conception in their own mind. The Lord is the great creative artist, and this is the plan His infinite wisdom has formed to create all beings and all things. The spiritual body cannot be organized directly from spiritual substances. They must have a material basis to rest upon - a material covering to contain their fine essences until they are deposited and wrought into such organic and permanent forms, that they may become the subjects of thought and affection; of a conscious, and when in true order, of a blessed life; a fit temple for the indwelling of the Lord.
This is a brief and very imperfect statement of a doctrine, which, as we shall see, has a most important bearing upon the succeeding subjects.
Thus the earths are the seminaries of the heavens. Upon them, the Lord plants human souls as the husbandman plants seeds in the earth, that they may gain organization, form, and individual being. And when that is accomplished, they throw off the material body, as the wheat rejects the chaff, and pass on into open and conscious life in the spiritual world. There, freed from the encumbrances and restrictions of a material body, with their identity perfectly preserved, they will find full scope for the development of all good affections, and the attainment of every joy. Every step, from conception to the grave, has been a preparation for this grand result. How this great step in life is effected, will be the subject of our next chapter.